Richmond respond with win over Clifton

Richmond secured five more precious points with a four try 26_10 victory against a talented and resilient Clifton side, who were buoyed by their victory the previous week against Hartpury College.

The power of the home pack was the decisive factor and Richmond had to dig deep and remain patient before securing all the points.

With Albanians also winning, Richmond’s lead at the top of the table remains six points but chasers Worthing and Henley both lost, to open up the gap between the top two teams and the rest.

After the narrow defeat at St Albans, Richmond made changes at half back, hooker and open side flanker, giving starts to Matt Keville, Tom Drewe, Jason Phipps and Doug Abbott.

Visitors Clifton have a good record against Richmond and started strongly.

Indeed for the first ten minutes, the home side saw little of the ball and struggled to get out of their half.

The visitors took full advantage of their initial impetus, scoring a first try after just eight minutes.

A high kick was allowed to bounce by the hesitant Richmond defence and Clifton seized the loose ball.

With the backs finding some precious open space, centre Jack Gadd ran powerfully before handing on to right wing Sam Smith to finish off with a clear run to the line, Ben Roberts adding a straightforward conversion.

At last Richmond now got into the game and, with the tight scrum looking all powerful, began to get a dominant share of possession and territory.

Matt Keville kicked well to establish camp in or around the Clifton 22 and Richmond drove repeatedly at the Clifton defence.

An error at the line out and a subsequent knock on held up progress but Clifton could not escape and the Richmond forwards turned the screw in the scrums, winning back possession.

After seventeen minutes, a penalty in front of the posts slid wide but Richmond were not to be denied.

Clifton almost escaped with another high kick, which dipped to deceive would be catchers but Kyle Sinckler reacted first and kicked the ball back on the volley, following up vigorously to deny Clifton any space to clear.

Another scrum was now the catalyst for the first try. With the Clifton pack fully engaged in stopping the Richmond drive, Tom Drewe broke round the blind side to pull the defence wide before slipping a pass to No 8 Harry Edwards, who was able to reach out to get the touch down.

However, the remaining twenty minutes of the half was frustrating as Richmond could not add to their score, too many errors costing turnover ball.

In the 36th minute, Roberts compounded the frustration, extending his side’s lead with a penalty given for holding on.

Keville made a neat break into the 22 soon afterwards but the follow up pass then went into Clifton hands. It summed up a difficult half, at the end of which Clifton lead 5-10.

Richmond had a big second half job to do.

The game remained in the balance for the first ten minutes of the second half as Richmond struggled to build momentum, wrong options and rushed passes proving too common.

But gradually the forwards upped the tempo and started to penetrate the hard working Clifton defence.

The visitors could find no way out of their 22 as Richmond drove them back with their big forwards now punching holes in the defence.

It was from turnover ball that Richmond scored the second try, Barney Pascall, Will Browne and James Greenwood having combined to get within a metre of the try line.

When the ball was then slowed, referee Jonathan Healy picked out Clifton full back George Karayinas and dismissed him with a yellow card.

Richmond could not gain immediate advantage, two successive line outs going wrong, but the pressure was now unrelenting and the home side remained admirably patient as they went through the phases.

Finally a lovely long pass by Keville put the strong running Edwards through a gap for his tenth try of the season and Tom Platt’s conversion gave Richmond the lead.

Looking much more confident, Richmond were soon back in the Clifton 22.

The forwards were now in full control and the backs pressed for the vital tries needed to secure full points.

But Clifton defended well and Richmond could not get good ball out to their wingers, a tendency to cut inside sometimes looking costly.

And it was ultimately the forwards who completed the job as Clifton conceded another scrum in desperate defence.

When the home eight drove forward and the scrum wheeled and collapsed, the referee had seen enough and ran to the posts to award a penalty try.

The main job was completed in the 71st minute. Richmond now looked much more relaxed and fully in control of the match.

George Merrick had replaced Doug Abbott early in the second half and his height and athleticism had proved a useful boost to the pack.

He now scored his first club try, being credited with the final touch as the forwards powered over the line against the tiring and battered Clifton pack.

Referee and linesman conferred before the try was awarded and Richmond had completed another tough afternoon with all main objectives achieved. Fittingly, front five forward Will Warden was adjudged man of the match.

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